But the community is not moving on: This week's local paper, the Beach Reporter, is filled with letters demanding the council come clean. Many residents point to the city's $4 million deficit this year, its largest ever, which led to deep cuts in the Community Police Program and city Employee Wellness Program, as well as the axing of some popular family programs that give the city its charm, including the taxpayer-sponsored Pumpkin Races and Halloween Carnival.
"Everybody wants to know why he is being paid all this money at a time of very painful budget cuts and staff reductions," says longtime resident Beverly Morse. "And they aren't telling us why they fired him. What the hell happened?"
"I can't tell you what happened with Geoff, but I can tell you that our next city manager will understand the City Council is their boss," Councilman Richard Montgomery tells the Weekly. "Understanding that relationship is critical for any candidate."
Hired in 1995, Dolan was a micromanager who saw every memo, flowchart and e-mail. But under his management the city eventually won a AAA bond rating and he enjoyed tremendous power over the council, which often agreed with his plans without challenge. "At council meetings the words staff recommendation were the surest way to get the council to vote yes," Morse says. "And who controlled the staff? Dolan."
But Dolan clashed with Ward, who began communicating directly with city department heads and challenging Dolan's dominance. Says one City Hall source, "Geoff hated that."
Councilwoman Portia Cohen, a lawyer originally from New Jersey, also began to object to Dolan's control. "I admit that Portia is a classic New Jersey lawyer with a strong point of view," Montgomery says. "She did push back."
So the fed-up council members forced Dolan out, insiders say. According to Councilman Wayne Powell, City Attorney Wadden told the council that Dolan could sue — and taxpayers could be on the hook — unless Dolan got the six months' severance mentioned in his contract.
"We didn't want any litigation," Powell tells the Weekly. "We were told it could end up costing us much more than $195,000, so. ..."
So Dolan got $195,000, and the political cover of saying he'd resigned. And the council got rid of Dolan. Everybody got what they wanted, critics say, except taxpayers. They wanted an honest answer about where their money went and why.